Sunday, November 30, 2014

Metaphor For A Grey Day

We bought the lap top that I have been pounding away on for the last few years used from a computer store in downtown Cody the first time that we lived in Wyoming.
For the past year I have been nursing the old beast along - knowing that it really needed to be replaced but not willing to spend the money to do that.
Finally it got to the point where I could no longer give it the first aid that it needed, and no matter the loving words nor curse words that I imparted upon it, I knew that my old technological piece of junk was ready to be put out to pasture.
With very little searching we found a teacher who was selling a lap top surprisingly cheaply.
She had upgraded because it was too big and too heavy for her to cart around campus, and after some brief negotiations we agreed on a price.
Would she mind meeting me at a computer store in downtown Blackfoot, so that my new favorite tech geeks could check it over?  Without hesitation she agreed to that, and that was a very good sign.
The day before Thanksgiving I did indeed meet her at the computer store and after getting two thumbs up from the tech-guys I handed a hundred dollar bill over to the teacher who was standing by the counter busily trying to hang on to two small children.
With that part taken care of, the next question was how much it would cost to have all my files and pictures transferred over to my new technological wonder.
Well.........that depends on how many files and how many pictures you have.
I showed the guys. have a lot of pictures!
Yes I DO Techno Geeks.
Yes I do.
I also needed to have some protective-anti-virus program installed.  After saying yes to getting the anti virus stuff and yes to having my files transferred from old to new lap top (and agreeing on a price slightly higher than the dollar amount I had just handed over to a woman-juggling-two-little-ones) I had planned on leaving the lap tops with the guys and picking it all back up again after Thanksgiving.
They told me that if I wanted to hang around in town, that they could get it all done in about two hours.
I felt certain that I could find something to do for a couple of hours, thanked them for getting right on it, and then headed for the door.
It was cold and damp outside.
Drizzling rain off and on, and on this grey day that had no redeeming qualities to it, I pulled the zipper of my jacket higher, crossed over the road and headed for a thrift store beside the parking lot where my Tahoe stood silently, waiting for my return...............

30 minutes later I walked back out into the drizzling rain and dampness of the day, and looked up and down the road wondering what to do next.
Debating and immediately discounting the idea of sitting somewhere for a coffee I wandered aimlessly down the sidewalk.
Absently....without forethought......I snapped a picture of a back alley as I walked by, and then I stopped walking for a moment, and stood looking more closely at the alley.
Veering off the sidewalk I impulsively walked down the same alley, suddenly curious to see what I would see.
Somehow it struck me as a metaphor for the kind of day I was wandering in.
Grey.  Uninspiring. The ugly back side of a mostly forgotten town, on an ugly and unforgiving day.
And then part way down the alley I saw this bench. 
It was sitting on a concrete pad outside an ugly and entirely utilitarian building, and it did not belong there.
It was a wonderful metal bench, with metal lattice seat and metal tractor and farm scene for the back rest.
I wondered for a moment what it was doing sitting seemingly lost and forgotten and alone in back of a building, and then wandered some more, now even more curious to see what I would see.................
 At the end of the alley I looked up, and on the side of an old brick building I found unexpected color.
The wall was filled with palm trees, a small thatched roof shack, and endless blue sky and ocean.
It was a surprising scene to be found in Blackfoot, Idaho, and I wondered who painted this and why THIS scene?
It was partially hidden now - tucked into a nook between ugly buildings, hidden behind a tall bamboo covered metal fence.
If I didn't know better I would have assumed that it was an outdoor patio area for a bar.  But I knew that there was no bar on that street.
Regardless, it was color on a day without color, and I liked it..............
  Hitting the sidewalk again, I turned down one more alley way, blindly wandering to kill time (but not so blindly that I wasn't aware of my surroundings) and curious some more at what I would find.
What I found was an old painted sign on the back end of one more business, and interesting stencils on top of a small dumpster.
I know.  
It all sounds so low brow.
What the hell was I doing wandering down back alleys on a cold day, looking at stencils on the lids of dumpsters?
It was an unplanned and unscheduled adventure, and surprisingly I found it interesting.
These were the unseen and un-noticed places in a small town.
The places where dumpsters and electrical wires and power meters and parking spaces were hidden from view.
Where low brow apartments existed on the top floors of hopeless and empty store fronts.
Where no-one bothered to decorate.  Where no-one cared.
Forgotten and ugly, only not always so ugly ............
There are a number of tall antennas located close to the Blackfoot Fire Department.
Not long after moving to Atomic City we were shopping in Blackfoot, seemingly constantly busy, constantly making runs into town to get things we needed for our new home.
As I was sitting in a parking lot waiting for LC I suddenly heard a very VERY loud siren.
I looked around me wondering if unexpectedly bad weather was coming in, or if the Russians were invading.
Nothing was amiss, and everyone around me was acting as if it was business as usual.
The siren lasted for a full minute.
I have heard the sirens many times since that first time, and now know that the siren blares every day at noon......................

This very old stone building (and the one further down in the alley) drew me in.
They were not cinder block or brick, but instead were beautifully aged stone.
Obviously unloved and unkempt, they had all the character in the world to them.................. 
 As I came to the end of one more alley (and as I realized that the slow drizzling rain had finally stopped), I looked across the road and saw a life sized American Indian.
Beside him stood a doorway that was surrounded by a wonderful and unexpected tee pee graphic.
Standing across from this surprising site I looked the building over, wondering what it was.
It was a company that made tarps, tee pees, truck covers and was appropriately named Blackfoot Canvas............
 Around the side of the building were more graphics.  A ghost like sign displaying the name of the store, a small wooden God Bless American decoration, and further along the wall of the building I found  two more very wonderful paintings.
By this time I was having a great time exploring places that had been right in front of me every time I ventured into the town of Blackfoot, but had never taken the time to see.
And I was also damp and freezing cold.
Looking at my watch I had only been walking for 30 minutes.
Still plenty of time to kill...................
 I don't know how old this building is, and maybe one day I will walk into this live theater and see what I imagine to be a wonderfully creative and decorated place.................

 Across the road from the theater I saw a hugely interesting graphic of a woman.
It was stark and dark and beautiful.................
After wandering and picture taking and freezing my hands, I found myself back at the computer store hoping that my new technological find was good-to-go.
It was not.
The anti virus stuff was on my new computer.  The files were on my new computer.  They were still downloading pictures.
These two guys are really good guys, and they both make me smile.
Young, enthusiastic, trying to stay in business in a tough economic climate, eager to help and eager to please, with wide open and helpful faces and I like them both very much.
And over this past year we have done business with them a number of times and they are hopelessly honest.
I like them.
Waving off their apologies and smiling at them both, I told them that I would be back in half an hour to see how it was going......................

Finally wandering over to the Tahoe I climbed in, drove down to the grocery store, picked up a couple of small items that we needed, and then headed back the way I had come.
Driving beyond the computer store I stopped for a red light at the back of town, crossed over the tracks close to the Potato Museum, and pulled into the parking lot of this building.
It is a funeral home.
It is a beautiful, circular building, and not surprisingly, it is one of the nicest buildings in town.
As they say - death is a recession proof business..............
After snapping a few quick pictures of the funeral home I wandered across the road to take a closer look at the small park that I had driven by many times, always on the way to somewhere or other.
I looked briefly at the sign and then turned my attention to the little leafless fruit trees that were just on the outskirts of the park.
And then I looked down at the small white stones that lay at the base of each tree.
Joe Bates (USN USAF Army)
WG Sandy (Pilot WWII)
There were maybe 20 of these stone, and each one listed a name, the military branch, and sometimes dates.
All bricks purchased and set (in memory of a loved one) under fruit trees in a pretty little park in back of town....................
 I spent only a few minutes at the park before heading across the street, loading back into the Tahoe and driving back to the computer store one more time.
Walking through the small glass door and into the small and struggling store, both old and new lap tops were sitting on the counter ready to go.
I smiled.  He smiled.  The other he smiled.
I was back in business again.................

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Winter Tightens Its Grip

I spend a lot of time alone with my dog.
We walk twice each day when other things don't get in the way.
We have walked twice a day every day since the day we picked Kory up at the airport and brought her to her new home.
One morning she was in the warmth of Tampa Bay in Florida, and that same afternoon she found herself with strangers in a cold new place called Idaho.
We walk everywhere. 
Often simply in circles - wandering up and down the few streets that make up Atomic City, and I watch her and am completely enamored with her.  
Because every trip up and down those same few streets is a new and wonderful adventure for her.
We walk to the Hay Bale Field often, because it is only a few minutes from the house and she can quickly be sprung from the bondage of her leash and quickly be free to run.
We also often wander the trail that leads to the back of a large piece of private land adjacent to BLM land, circle around it and pick up one more trail that takes us to the opposite side of town.
And then there is the endless desert, with its buttes, its small hills, its endless stretches where this is nothing but sage brush and desert grasses and holes big and small in the ground that are homes to desert creatures, some cute and some not so much.
Life is very quiet in this tiny, isolated, nothing community in the middle of nowhere.
I am hiding in this tiny town that is surrounded by unbearably expansive and empty desert.
Hiding from life.  Hiding from the world.  Hiding from myself.
Living in a silent retreat.
Trying to find............what the hell am I trying to find?
I don't even know the answer to that.
Maybe because the reality is that there is nothing to find.
Trying to regroup but not really able to and not really trying, and not surprisingly I find myself only in limbo.
In that strange state between being and.......not. 
I remember being a kid and thinking how wonderful it must be to be an adult, because adults seemed to have all the answers.
Now I know that not only do adults not have all the answers, but sometimes they get to the point where they don't even know the questions.
I also remember a time as I was growing up, when "hippies" were all trying to find the Meaning Of Life, and even as a kid I looked on these people (who were only a few years older than me) with disdain.
Stop hitting that tambourine and get a job.  Take a shower.  Get a a haircut.  Buy normal clothes for goodness sakes.
How long can a woman live without confronting her life head on?  
When does she stop being afraid that there IS no meaning to life?
Or at least, no meaning to HER life...............
Chris turned 29 last week.
I tried to call him but the call went straight to voice mail, and so I left him a message and then sent him an email.
I always thought of him as "my youngest son" and I can't call him that anymore, but to think of him just as "my son" is too painful.
He is well.  I think.  I hope.  I think............
I need to always carry a gun with me when I walk.
Often I will leave it at home when I intend to just wander inside the city limits, but often those intentions get unceremoniously thrown out the window on the spur of the moment when initial plans change, and me and my dog veer off town roads and head into the open-ness of the desert.
 I know that we have many coyotes out in the desert because I hear them often.  Seeing so many tracks in the snow is a visible (and visceral) reminder of their presence.............
It was close to dark one day last week and my four legged hiking companion and I headed towards the Hay Bale Field.
We had already circled through town, but a woman can only walk in circles so many times before her screaming brain screams for something different.
As so I veered off the gravel road, called to Kory to stop walking, and then reached down to unclip her from her leash.
Instantly she ran into the field, and I watched her as she danced and pranced and quickly circled her way around the entire field, before happily returning to me for a moment and then taking off in a joyful run again.
The snow had quickly melted over the course of a few warm days, and I looked towards the mountains hoping that it would snow again soon.
While others who live in town either retreat to warmer southern states for the winter, or hibernate inside their homes here in Atomic City, I embrace winter.
The world is beautiful in the winter.  
The days and nights are cool and then cold and then freezing, and the winds howl in that deep and echoing way that you only hear in the winter.
There is a  raw beauty and strength to winter.
An anger and brutality in winter that calls to me.  Almost as though the weather is trying day by freezing day to match the deep and echoing anger and brutality that is my own.............
I watched in quiet bemusement as my very sweet pup began alternating between brief periods of sprinting, with longer periods of nose-inserting investigating.
Nose buried deep within thick rows of tumbleweeds she animatedly jumped and scurried, popped her head up and then dove back into the tumbleweeds again..............
With some daylight still remaining, we headed over towards the silos.
The sky was beautiful and (although the silos were facing to the east) it was also changing colors rapidly.
The world was fading into night, and standing in the middle of a large field I looked beyond the silos and the Twin Buttes, and then turned to face Big Butte and Cedar Butte to the west............
In March I found the Face Book page of one of my brothers.
I sent him a brief message from LCs page saying this is Karin - let me know if you get this message.
Eight months later I received a reply.
Apparently he does not check his Face Book page very often...........

He is one year younger than me (just as all my sibling are a year apart, with the exception of the youngest one).
He had a rough time as he was growing up, and of all of my siblings he was probably the one that I was the closest to.
We have exchanged a few messages over the past 24 hours and it was good to hear from him.
I haven't seen or spoken to him since the boys were very little................... 
There are six of these large, concrete circles laying in the field immediately in front of the silos.
I am not sure if they are part of the well pumps or a cistern system, but something related to a watering system none-the-less.
On this day, covered in a thin coating of snow, in their totality they looked like a serene and beautiful piece of art..................
As I walked around them I looked at them, surprised.
It had not snowed in a number of days and I was surprised to see some of the circles had been untouched. With the exception of a few rabbit paw prints...............
As Kory and I were heading towards the front of the silos I looked to my right.
In an adjoining field there are almost endless piles of hay, stacked high and abandoned.
I stood and studied them on this rapidly fading day, as I have many times before, wondering why these bales were simply stacked, abandoned and forgotten.
Who does that??
As with the beautiful old trucks that stand silently in a straight row not far from where I stood, and as with other things that litter this town, I had no idea.
There are so many things and so many buildings in this town that nobody gives any thought about.
Even the house we bought.  It was obvious that it was a good and sound house, but even as we walked through it the very first time, it was also obvious that nobody had cared about it in a very long time..................
We had very little time left before the day would finally turn into night.
It was time to go home..............

I have come to regard November as the older, harder man's October. I appreciate the early darkness and cooler temperatures. It puts my mind in a different place than October. It is a month for a quieter, slightly more subdued celebration of summer's death as winter tightens its grip................Henry Rollins